China 'respects' decision to move women's World CupPosted: Sunday May 04, 2003 7:44 AM
Updated: Sunday May 04, 2003 7:46 AM
BEIJING (AP) -- The Chinese Football Association on Sunday said it understands and respects FIFA's decision to cancel plans to hold the women's World Cup in China because of the SARS threat, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
FIFA decided to relocate the tournament -- originally set for Sept. 23-Oct. 11 in and around Shanghai -- during meetings Saturday in Zurich, Switzerland. The sport's governing body said it had not yet picked a new location but that the United States and Australia were interested.
China, which was runner-up to the United States at the last Women's World Cup, was granted the 2007 Cup instead.
Calls to the China Football Association went unanswered Sunday, which was a national holiday.
But Xinhua reported that the Chinese Football Association and the event's organizing committee have said they "understand and respect" FIFA's decision.
"We were told that the decision was made after careful discussions at the FIFA Executive Committee and for the health of all the participating teams," Xinhua quoted the CFA as saying.
The Chinese association promised to cooperate in moving the tournament.
"While determined to make continuous efforts to promote women's soccer, we'd like to wish the Women's World Cup 2003 a big success," Xinhua quoted the CFA as saying.
Soccer Australia said it will consider hosting the women's World Cup, but that the timing of the event would clash with the Rugby World Cup, which starts Sept. 23.
"Should FIFA bring up the possibility of hosting the tournament in Australia, Soccer Australia would be willing to participate in discussions regarding logistics and putting together a tournament of that stature," an Australian spokesman said Sunday.
"However, we would make it very clear to FIFA that the current suggested timing of the tournament would clash with the other major football competitions in Australia and the Rugby World Cup in October."
The United States is also reported ready to meet with FIFA to talk over the financial and logistical problems of taking over as host of the event at short notice.
The Beijing Times quoted Chinese women's soccer coach Ma Liangxing as saying the switch of venues will "have an extremely big effect on us. Originally, we had the home advantage but now we'll have to adjust to another pitch and time differences. We'll have to reschedule our practice matches and revise all of our other plans."
Ma added that "for the team, by not holding the World Cup at home, there will be a lot less pressure on us. There will be advantages and disadvantages," the paper reported.
Last month, China delayed the start of its professional soccer season because of SARS, which officials say has killed at least 197 people in China and has infected more than 4,100.
Other sports events in China already canceled include four Women's National Baskbetball Association (WNBA) exhibition games against China's national team, and the women's ice hockey world championships. The world badminton championships in England were postponed because many Asians were expected to compete.
On Friday, the International Cycling Union said the world track cycling championships would be moved to Europe from China.
Sixteen teams are scheduled to take part in the Women's World Cup. The United States, Nigeria, Ghana, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, Germany, Norway, Russia, Sweden and France have already qualified. China automatically qualifies as the host.
An Asian qualifying tournament in Thailand was moved from April to June because of SARS. The draw to set the groups for the finals also was postponed because of concerns over the virus.